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More data storage? Here’s how to fit 1,000 terabytes on a DVD

We live in a world where digital information is exploding. Some 90% of the world’s data was generated in the past two years. The obvious question is: how can we store it all? In Nature Communications today…

Using nanotechnology, researchers have developed a technique to increase the data storage capacity of a DVD from a measly 4.7GB to 1,000TB. Nature Communications

We live in a world where digital information is exploding. Some 90% of the world’s data was generated in the past two years. The obvious question is: how can we store it all?

In Nature Communications today, we, along with Richard Evans from CSIRO, show how we developed a new technique to enable the data capacity of a single DVD to increase from 4.7 gigabytes up to one petabyte (1,000 terabytes). This is equivalent of 10.6 years of compressed high-definition video or 50,000 full high-definition movies.

So how did we manage to achieve such a huge boost in data storage? First, we need to understand how data is stored on optical discs such as CDs and DVDs.

The basics of digital storage

Although optical discs are used to carry software, films, games, and private data, and have great advantages over other recording media in terms of cost, longevity and reliability, their low data storage capacity is their major limiting factor.

Adam Foster | Codefor

The operation of optical data storage is rather simple. When you burn a CD, for example, the information is transformed to strings of binary digits (0s and 1s, also called bits). Each bit is then laser “burned” into the disc, using a single beam of light, in the form of dots.

The storage capacity of optical discs is mainly limited by the physical dimensions of the dots. But as there’s a limit to the size of the disc as well as the size of the dots, many current methods of data storage, such as DVDs and Blu-ray discs, continue to have low level storage density.

To get around this, we had to look at light’s fundamental laws.

Circumnavigating Abbe’s limit

Ernst Abbe. Wikimedia Commons

In 1873, German physicist Ernst Abbe published a law that limits the width of light beams.

On the basis of this law, the diameter of a spot of light, obtained by focusing a light beam through a lens, cannot be smaller than half its wavelength - around 500 nanometres (500 billionths of a metre) for visible light.

And while this law plays a huge role in modern optical microscopy, it also sets up a barrier for any efforts from researchers to produce extremely small dots - in the nanometre region - to use as binary bits.

In our study, we showed how to break this fundamental limit by using a two-light-beam method, with different colours, for recording onto discs instead of the conventional single-light-beam method.

Both beams must abide by Abbe’s law, so they cannot produce smaller dots individually. But we gave the two beams different functions:

Nature Communications

  • The first beam (red, in the figure right) has a round shape, and is used to activate the recording. We called it the writing beam
  • The second beam - the purple donut-shape - plays an anti-recording function, inhibiting the function of the writing beam

The two beams were then overlapped. As the second beam cancelled out the first in its donut ring, the recording process was tightly confined to the centre of the writing beam.

This new technique produces an effective focal spot of nine nanometres - or one ten thousandth the diameter of a human hair.

The technique, in practical terms

Our work will greatly impact the development of super-compact devices as well as nanoscience and nanotechnology research.

The exceptional penetration feature of light beams allow for 3D recording or fabrication, which can dramatically increase the data storage - the number of dots - on a single optical device.

The technique is also cost-effective and portable, as only conventional optical and laser elements are used, and allows for the development of optical data storage with long life and low energy consumption, which could be an ideal platform for a Big Data centre.

As the rate of information generated worldwide continues to accelerate, the aim of more storage capacity in compact devices will continue. Our breakthrough has put that target within our reach.

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99 Comments sorted by

  1. Dave Winterbotham

    logged in via Facebook

    So - does this work for reading the data as well? Unless you can focus the reading laser to the same diameter it seems a bit pointless...

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    1. Paul McCarthy

      lawyer

      In reply to Dave Winterbotham

      On a normal optical disk the same laser is used for reading and writing, running at lower power for reading. If you can focus the laser for burning you can focus it for reading since reading is simply processing the brightness variation in the low power laser beam when it is interrupted by the 3d structure that was burned into the disk.

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    2. DeeDee Moran

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Dave Winterbotham

      That was my first question upon reading this, too. Do they use the same trick of overlapping beams for the readout lasers? The article seems incomplete without describing the readout process as well.

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  2. Deirdre Whitford

    Un-Worker

    Just from the viewpoint of a tech-nonsavvy taxpayer, great congrats to Swinburne and CSIRO for figuring this out!

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  3. Iain Millar

    Unemployed at Centrelink

    Sounds a brilliant and useful concept. Like its predecessors I wonder which o/seas country will develop and market it.

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  4. Rob Fairweather

    Retired programmer

    Seems to me that there should be a tsunami of people/organisations wanting to buy licenses to use this fabulous development!

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  5. Dave Bugden

    IT Manager

    Sorry, I guess I'll be the dissenter. We've come a long way from optical media, with a huge surge in the use and development of flash and solid-state storage in the last 5 years. While this breakthrough is ingenious, it doesn't save us from the fact that optical media (DVDs have low scratch resistance, are relatively bulky, are fragile and require old technology (optical drives) to be read.

    USB/MicroUSB drives and solid-state drives are relatively robust, standardised and extremely common now. I'd say their capacity will soon outstrip this new DVD technology, without all the risks.

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    1. Rob Fairweather

      Retired programmer

      In reply to Dave Bugden

      Point well made Dave, It's always been an issue with me when receiving DVDs from outside sources, that how often data is either lost or partly unreadable ... most frustrating, and usually caused by ignorance re handling.
      I wonder how long before we'll be seeing public libraries supplying books and video on memory sticks!!

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    2. Dominic Flynn

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Dave Bugden

      yes but it doesn't look like we'll see a 1,000 Terrabyte sd card in your lifetime.

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    3. Greg Boyles

      Lanscaper and former medical scientist

      In reply to Dave Bugden

      I guess for the average consumer, it will come down to which technology is ends up cheaper.

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    4. Dave Bugden

      IT Manager

      In reply to Dominic Flynn

      Fair call, but there are already 1TB USB drives around. Obviously you'd need a thousand of those to equal one of these DVDs. In 5 years we'll have 3TB USB drives, which is ample, safe storage for many - plus it's conveniently sized. Who will need to carry around a petabyte any time soon? And the read speeds would be woeful...

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    5. Forgetful Orange

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to Dave Bugden

      All you need to solve most of your issues is encase the DVD in something light & protective as part of it's distribution. Something like was done with the large, old floppy disks that were wrapped in some kind of paper (but something better than this, obviously). I always thought this should have been done in the first place.

      If whatever was used to encase the DVD were half as ingenius as this development, we're only left with the size being slightly awkward compared to USB sticks. For a petabyte, anyone would make that concession.

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    6. George Naumovski

      Online Political Activist

      In reply to Dave Bugden

      Solid state are flash chips are great and easy to use “they are a rip off but easy to use” but the manufactures can’t guarantee the date you store to last for years. I have seen some USB stick and portable hard drives claiming a 10 year data life with a 3 year warranty.

      The solid drives/flash memory/USB sticks are great for moving data around easily and quickly and the USB 3.0 makes it a bit quicker to store, but those flash chips as with all IC’s can get damaged from all sorts of fields and shocks…

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    7. Dave Bugden

      IT Manager

      In reply to George Naumovski

      But a single scratch could render that 1,000 terabytes useless in seconds!

      I guess I'm a little intrigued at all the research into massive storage on what is essentially a brittle, scratchable piece of plastic. The more you put on these discs, the more you have to lose. Not to mention read/write speeds are abysmal. I'd hate to be retrieving terabytes of data from an optical drive.

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    8. Roach Warren

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Dave Bugden

      While I agree that other storage methods offer better speed and reliability, the sheer capacity offered by this method is tempting. Even if we were currently capable of making a solid state drive that large, the cost would be ridiculous.

      Current SSDs, even at the cheapest end of the scale, cost about $0.65 per gig. So a drive with the capacity we're looking at here would be around $650,000. For the home user, there will be little point, but for a data centre this is going to reduce the cost of storage exponentially.

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    9. Josh Ua

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Roach Warren

      With a petabyte to play with you could probably burn the same data multiple times in different CD sectors and lose 90% of the disk to scratches while still maintaining data integrity. 10% of the surface is still 100 terabytes!
      Would be interesting to see micro cd's with the same density of information, a small disk could be housed in an SD card sized cover and still have several terabytes by the sounds of it.

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    10. wizdude

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to Rob Fairweather

      I doubt we will see libraries with media like this. It will all be online.

      I have already downloaded entire scanned copies of my old computer magazine collections from archive.org. I'd thrown the physical copies away years ago as they were taking up valuable space but I always regretted it. Now I have them as scanned pdf's on my machine.

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    11. Phillip Killion

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Dave Bugden

      Come a long way sure, but it's still the easiest and most cost-effective method for distribution for number of avenues. You could walk down to the store and buy a disc with over a terabyte of information that cost abotu $.25 to manufacture/ship, or you could walk down and buy a flash-drive for $500 with 1TB of storage (years from now that disc will still be about that price, while the flash drive will still cost at least $5). Flash Drives just aren't cost-effective for mass-distribution of media…

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    12. Jer RM

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Dave Bugden

      However, how many times have we all heard this before... Oh you will never need that or this. In 5 years, many might be complaining that they need larger Drives (HDD or USB) or Media. I remember when the Internet was not going to go anywhere, when HHD would never need to be over 1 GB, etc, etc, etc. While I agree that DVD and BD media are too fragile as they are now, it may come to pass that new technology will add a protective layer that is far superior to what we currently have. Each has a cost factor and limitations that affect its overall best use purpose.

      So all I can say is keep developing as what purpose and improvements may just benefit in unexpected ways.

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    13. Colin Leroy

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Dominic Flynn

      Hi,
      You think? When I was nine, my Apple IIc used 5"1/4 floppies, each storing 144 kilobytes of data. Now, 24 years later, I carry around a stick which chip is smaller than my thumb's nail, storing 64 gigabytes. This is 466033 times more storage, in a fraction of the size. I expect petabytes in my pocket before 15 years as that rate :)

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    14. Benjamin Haed

      logged in via email @hotmail.com

      In reply to Dave Bugden

      I see the application of this being more important to large enterprise environments right now

      SSD/Flash does have some serious advantages in terms of density and read speeds. It loses to optical media in the realm of Bit Decay however. If you're talking about long term storage of data, you're looking for as cheap as possible with stability being secondary and density being further down the list of requirements. This puts something super cheap high up on the list.

      Especially if you're talking…

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    15. Ande Thomas

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Dave Bugden

      "A single scratch could render that 1,000 terabytes useless in seconds!"

      This is the silliest argument against this incredible advancement. I can literally count on one hand the number of times I've scratched ANY optical media (CDs, DVDs, video games, PC discs, Blu-Ray, etc) beyond repair. This is such a non-issue.

      Maybe this isn't practical for day to day usage, but having the ability to back up your entire digital footprint, all your photos, movies, games, your whole OS, files, applications, etc onto one disc is mind blowing.

      One "obsolete, outdated" disc with the memory capacity of around 100 high end modern PCs that is virtually impervious to data corruption and other mishaps related to digital and cloud storage? Sign me up.

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    16. Chris Blake

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Dave Bugden

      From the article:

      "The exceptional penetration feature of light beams allow for 3D recording or fabrication, which can dramatically increase the data storage – the number of dots – on a single optical device."

      They can put multiple layers of smaller dots as deep as possible into a disc, and you'll end up with more storage in a more secure position than existing discs.

      Not to mention you can record in redundancy by recording as many duplicate copies in as many locations on the disc as you want, when you're dealing with this much storage mass.

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    17. William Carr

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Forgetful Orange

      "Something light and protective"... you mean like the caddies the original CD's came in? A dust and scratch-proof plastic case the disk never comes out of ?

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    18. William Carr

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Josh Ua

      A "holographic" system, perhaps? Data scattered all over the disk, so that damage to one sector was harmless?

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    19. William Carr

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Chris Blake

      The previous breakthrough I can remember was using multiple-layer disks, one written with a blue laser, one written with a red laser, etc.

      The writing laser passes through the other layers without affecting them.

      Sounds like there's a 3D aspect to this breakthrough as well.

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    20. Dave Bugden

      IT Manager

      In reply to Jer RM

      I definitely think we'll outgrow the petabyte level soon, but I don't think we'll need it on DVDs. I'm coming around to the idea that this could be a decent solution for enterprise, long term storage, but we'll need someone to warehouse an optical drive, SATA cables, SATA motherboard, etc for it to all work!

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    21. Dave Bugden

      IT Manager

      In reply to Colin Leroy

      I agree on both counts, that we'll carry TBs and PBs around in our pockets in 15 years, but I definitely hope it won't be on optical media!

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    22. Dave Bugden

      IT Manager

      In reply to Benjamin Haed

      I'm coming around to this idea now, for enterprise data storage in particular. As long as it's housed correctly and there's a way of retrieving the data, of course. It's going to be a slow process to read data from those discs...

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    23. Dave Bugden

      IT Manager

      In reply to Ande Thomas

      You've been incredibly lucky to never have a scratch that's destroyed data. I've lost dozens over the years. Even the sharp edges of the DVD tray and DVD case themselves can be culprits. It's true, a single scratch, not even one that spans the radius of the disc is enough to render it unreadable by optical drives.

      This article seemed to be pitched at the idea that we could carry around our lives on discs in the future. Perhaps I'm being too literal, but that's a daft idea and like I've said in other comments, I'm coming around to the idea that enterprise might get something out of it. That said, if you drop your 1000TB disc and it lands the wrong way down...you're stuffed.

      I love that optical media is behind us - it's slow, hard to append data and it's fragile. There will be a million ways to store data in future that will outstrip this on any metric, I'll wait until there are more options before signing up...

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    24. Paul Duncan

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Dave Bugden

      Solid state will have several decades to go before it reaches the level of optical storage in cost of manufacture in bulk and that if optical storage tech stood still starting now. Optical storage is a perfect physical medium to deliver digital content. Way WAY less costly than if they put it on a flash drive. Do you realize how bad that would be for the SSD industry if you could buy flash memory for as cheap as a blank DVD? No no no.

      Capacity is not the issue. It is practicality and cost to manufacture. They will not destroy two profitable industries for such a silly notion. Optical storage costs a fraction of a penny to make. The only upfront cost to them is installing new machinery and the R&D attached to developing methods like the story above.

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    25. Peter Van Cauwenberghe

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Dave Bugden

      Well I guess you have here some point about how it is not a strong media. But consider that we are going to live all together in the clouds with our data. So it would mean that we have big amounts of data stored there. So the need for local huge amount of storage is not really needed. But in the cloud the problem becomes bigger. Special when we want to store files an the history of changes also. Then I see in this a future. Think about how a simple hard disk is build now. And make the same but then…

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    26. Michael Van Ryan

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Dave Bugden

      Really? As an IT Manager? Personal Use isn't the mother-lode here. Archiving is.

      Lets assume the article is correct, and a Petabyte is in reach on a CD-sized piece of kit, with relatively normal players/writers.

      That's twice the total data consumption of my Hadoop clusters (Active for a year) and several hundred billion data elements.

      The running cost of a petabyte of storage is phenomenal. Around half million in gear, and then running costs of 500 or more spindles, management processors…

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    27. Dan Hughes

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Dave Bugden

      What a very creative way to get around a limited law. I agree Dave. However, even more advanced than that is cloud storage. We eventually won't need disks, hardware at all anymore. Accessing storage anyway at any time, hopefully safely and encrypted. These days though, we may need some large storage to keep our data private.

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    28. kris tibbitts

      audio video specialist

      In reply to Dave Bugden

      The idea of flash is great but it will be a very long time before it is as cheap as an optical disc for any size, period. I mean, what is cheaper, a 4 Gb DVD or a 4Gb flash drive? Don't get me wrong, I love my flash drives but there is a reason movies and video games don't come on flash cartridges, cost. Optical discs are still a great medium for information. Think about the new 4k TV's. it will take about 200 gigabytes for one single movie. How much would a flash drive or a hard drive cost in the 200 gigabyte range? I don't know about you but I don't feel like paying $300 for or a movie. That's where this kind of storage will still come in very handy.

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    29. kris tibbitts

      audio video specialist

      In reply to Dave Bugden

      A 1tb flash drive is cool, but I don't have $3k just sitting around. But I could probably swing 5 bucks for an optical disc.

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    30. kris tibbitts

      audio video specialist

      In reply to Forgetful Orange

      Mini-discs! They were genius! Imagine this technology being used on a dual layer double sided mini-disc. Freakin awesome!

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    31. kris tibbitts

      audio video specialist

      In reply to Dave Bugden

      The point of this technology is not for everyday use. Back up your data and store it in a safe place, od's will last a long time. Plus if you need to give someone a massive amount of data would you spend the $3k on a one tb flash drive or a few bucks on a disc? And I don't know about you but I still have DVD,s from almost 15 years ago that work fine because I took care of them.

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    32. David Reid

      Director IT

      In reply to Dave Bugden

      While it's true that optical media has it's problems, NAND Flash is not likely to be the savior. Your statement about using flash for long term storage is not accurate. Flash "forgets" if it is not periodically refreshed. Data life on flash memory can be as short as 5 years. Flash memory also wears out. As page sizes increase in flash memory the problem of write amplification also becomes a problem when considering the wear of write cycles to update smaller block sizes. I think that the future is some sort of solid state storage but it probably won't be flash.

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    33. David Reid

      Director IT

      In reply to Forgetful Orange

      Actually in the early days of data DVD they DID come in protective cases with a shutter that allowed the DVD to be read without ever touching it. That was done away with because consumers preferred the tray mechanism you now see.

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    34. Cloud Cray

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Dave Bugden

      ^ agreed on the enterprise storage.
      Write speed aside, YouTube could back up its entire datastore on one of these each day for, what, $.15 in material costs?

      For organizations that need nightly backups of their entire network - healthcare organizations, software development firms, etc - being able to reboot from any point in time for such a low cost sounds awesome. You would need to make sure the discs were properly and securely stored, of course, but long-term, low costs, high-volume data storage seems perfect here.

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  6. George Michaelson

    Person

    if the two beams are different frequencies, how can they superimpose to cancel out? I thought this required close frequency matching? Or is there some fringe effect that if both are below a threshold if interfered with, then even if its not completely occluded, the intensity of the un-fringed inner region is over the threshold and so has the prime effect? I can believe that, because the outer donut appears to be sensitizing the media, which suggests its above a threshold to have an effect on it, but below a threshold to change it stably, unless also hit by the inner beam. But, what does repeated tracking do? does a re-write pass require both beams to be "off" to avoid damaging recording state or is the outer donut beam "safe" to have on?

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    1. William Carr

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to George Michaelson

      Magneto-optical drives use a laser to heat the media so the magnetic field can be changed.

      It's not far off from that. The outer annulus preheats, the inner spot burns.

      And it does sound like they're using destructive interference to reduce the active portion of the "write" beam.

      I was wondering how you can crowd the data bits closer until I realized the purple penumbra can sweep across already written bits without affecting them.

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  7. Dominic Flynn

    logged in via Facebook

    Wow. So except for data capacity it's basically the same as a DVD. If the data rate can't be improved by a few orders of magnitude the applications will be a bit limited, but still better than other optical disks.

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  8. Elmar Schippers

    logged in via Facebook

    Will this improve on read/write IOPS. the larger you make the disk, the more time it would take to write it or read it.

    Dvds are already terribly to be read from. this could potentially make it worse.

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  9. LP Hock

    Retired

    Storage files will get bigger and smaller in hardware. The question is the search protocol efficiency - one as efficient as your brain. I remember the days when I engaged a consultant to do commercial management data mining on mainframe using SQL. It was a disaster as commitment by vested interest was primarily to support biz but not a biz driver. Today, search engines will allow more storage files on small devices to find quick solutions.

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  10. Steve Phillips

    Nurse Practitioner

    What Id like to know is, is there a way of storing important infomation that cannot get lost easily?
    Are we looking for a sound way to store stuff for hundreds perhaps thousands of years.
    Im not a collector but the oldest book I have is 1830 and the oldest map is 1775. They are in good nick.
    Currently we have, SDs DVDs and disk drives. All are less reliable than good old paper.
    My DVDs and CDs are deteriorating already and the oldest are 10 years old. SDs can be wiped or corrupted disk drives just stop working and is it is a disk not drive problem must be consigned to the scrap.

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    1. William Carr

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Steve Phillips

      Yes.

      What you want is the digital equivalent of a film projector.

      Something very simple, that just rotates the disk and allows flashes of light to pass through laser-burned pinholes.

      Any Electical engineer could fake up a reader for that.

      Magnetics, not quite as easy and too vulnerable.

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  11. Peter Winwood

    Research Psychologist at University of South Australia

    This seems to be yet another great Australian based achievement.
    However the REAL question is: How stable is the medium after it has been so recorded, i.e. how long will such material last as a storage facility?
    From memory,I don't think anyone in modern times has yet devised an electronic storage medium with a tenth the 'lasting' qualities of vellum

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    1. wizdude

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to Peter Winwood

      The stability of the media is only half the problem here. Lets assume it can be made stable for 200 years.

      In 200 years time, where will we find a drive to read it?

      This has already happened with tape drives. People who archived data to them years ago find they can no longer retrieve it. The same has almost happened with floppy disks.

      Hard drives are a great archive media. They contain the disks and the hardware to read it all in one.

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    2. Peter Winwood

      Research Psychologist at University of South Australia

      In reply to wizdude

      Oh how right you are!
      I came across a case a few years ago of a widow who decided to clear out her garage and found box upon box of recording tape about 5 cms in width. Her husband had been a geologist who had worked for a mining exploration company. She decided to take the tape back to the company in case it had some importance. The people were there were stumped; they had no idea what the tape was until an old foreman came in on the conversation and identified it as seismic recording tape he hadn't seen for years and couldn't remember the last time he'd seen the equipment to 'read' it. When they enquired where the husband had been working (exploring) they looked at each other in horror; it was an area they had developed a new interest in with the advent of new and better 'extraction' techniques and equipment.
      It was going to cost some millions of $ to re-survey the same area, results of which they now had in their hands, but had no way of 'reading ' it.!!!!!

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    3. Jason Tokarz

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to wizdude

      But the same problem applies to hard disks. What happens in 10, 15, or 20 years when motherboards don't have SATA connections/controllers? Or when USB has long been superseded?

      How easy is it to find a machine with an ISA bus to read an old MFM hard disk?

      There is no media (other than paper but I hear the data density is terrible :-) that will withstand the test of time.

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    4. Phil Weinberger

      logged in via LinkedIn

      In reply to wizdude

      Hard drives are a good archive medium until the underlying technology of the hard drive gets obsolete. Can you currently read an old ST225 hard drive that used MFM technology on any computer today? No.

      Even an external USB drive is only useful for as long as there are computers with a USB port. As technology evolves, I doubt that any computers 20 years in the future will have them or that many people will even remember what USB was...And ALL of this is assuming that the disk formats (NTFS, etc) will still be supported in the future. 'Aint progress grand?

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    5. Phil Weinberger

      logged in via LinkedIn

      In reply to Jason Tokarz

      We are living in a 'Digital Dark Age'. 500 years from now, archeologists will have no idea what life was like for us because there will be virtually no surviving record, having all been stored ephemerally as digital data.

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    6. William Carr

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Phil Weinberger

      Well, we could beam our data into space, bounce it off a mirror out by the orbit of Pluto and then repeat the process 320 minutes later, forever...

      Storage at the Moon's South Pole would be a good idea too.

      Backup services would be very profitable for the Moon Colony.

      We could back up the entire Internet where terrorist attack can't affect it.

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  12. Juan Carmona

    logged in via Facebook

    For everyone asking why are we trying to store so much on an optical disc? This may not be great for everyday carry it with you storage, but for Enterprises that have huge amounts of data, this could be a boon. instead of hundreds of hard drives to power and maintain you have one disc, heck even with redundancy, it more cost effective in the long run to use optical media that can hold 1pb.

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  13. Yoron Hamber

    Thinking

    Hope you've patented it :)
    Otherwise you can be sure people will do it for you.
    And I for one find this storage really good, go make it feasible :)

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  14. Jay Karnik

    logged in via Facebook

    By simple mathematics if 500nm is reduced to 9nm. then the data capacity is increased by 55 times which would make the capacity 261GB not 1000TB.

    Article maybe a HOAX....

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    1. Ryan O'Quinn

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Jay Karnik

      Diameter of bit representation is decreased by ~55 times in both dimensions. Both width and height are smaller not only allows more sequential bits but also allowing more rows on the radius of the disk - think about it.

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  15. Lalit Goel

    logged in via Facebook

    i think there would be loss of data as second beam of light oppose the function of first beam.

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  16. Isaac Phy

    logged in via Facebook

    I know that there will probably be something I'm missing, so please help me understand more -

    We've gone from 500 nanometers to 9 nanometers, so 9 nanometers is 56 times smaller than 500. 4.7 GB (which would fit on a 500 nanometer disk) * 56 isn't anywhere near a PB. It's 263.2 GB. What am I missing?

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    1. Alexander Kerr

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Isaac Phy

      I doubt it's as simple as just taking 500 / 9 then multiplying your current storage, or if it is then they mistakenly said DVD instead of Blu-Ray Disc seeing as it can store somewhere in the region of.. 25 GB? A Blu-Ray would then store around 1350 TB of data (roughly, not going to sit and work it all out exactly)

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    2. Isaac Phy

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Ryan O'Quinn

      Thanks Ryan, thought it might be something like that. Just looking at logic. ;)

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    3. Joseph Plá

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Alexander Kerr

      No, it is that simple. This kind of storage is literally a matter of surface area and sample density.

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  17. Jason Martyn

    logged in via LinkedIn

    I wonder if this development had any interplay with the biological concept of on-off receptor fields occurring in certain types of neurons (i.e. the mammalian eye). The retinal ganglion cells of the eye utilize an on (or off) center with a surrounding off (or on) doughnut region, similar to the configuration of the lasers in this article.

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  18. John Aitchison

    logged in via Facebook

    The NSA just shuttered plans for all those extra data centers ;)

    In all seriousness, as already mentioned, for the home user solid state storage seems like a better solution. This could revolutionize big data though; imagine being able to store 1,000 terabytes of data on a $0.50 piece of plastic...

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  19. Sean Twitty

    logged in via Facebook

    The only problem I see is data retrieval. With that much data, you will need to figure out a faster way of retrieving that data. How fast would the rotation of the disc need to be in order to make this practical in data retrieval?

    I think the amount of data stored is awesome, but for the common user a better way of protecting the disc may need to be considered since optical discs are prone to scratches. Does anyone remember the old 3-1/2" floppy discs? Something like that as protection may be practical.

    For those that are having trouble with the math. You have to take the radius of the laser, square it and then multiply by pi. You need to do that with both size of lasers and then divide the those numbers in order to get an accurate representation of how much more data would be held on the disc.

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    1. William Carr

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Sean Twitty

      Oh, I worked that out years ago. If you can't spin the disk at 5,000 RPM, put in twelve optical readers.

      Or a hundred ! The reader for this disk might be jam-packed with heads.

      I can see this hybrid lensing system miniaturized down to 3 mm across.

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  20. Werner Neumann

    logged in via Facebook

    great stuff, what if we use multiple lasers/frequencies to inference with each other to not only write 0 or 1 but 'qbit'-like states?

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  21. Roger Chappell

    logged in via Facebook

    yes, but from 500 nanometres down to 9 will only give an increase of a factor of 55.5, so wouldn't that mean that 4.7 GB goes up top just 261.1 GB?

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    1. Peter Naus

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Roger Chappell

      55 squared, Roger. Two dimensions, remember? :)

      Still, 3000x isn't THAT great, just over 10T on a disk.

      I assume my primitive maths means I'm off by maybe a factor of 2 or so, but even so, I wonder where the rest comes from? Maximally assumed efficient layering?

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  22. Peter Winwood

    Research Psychologist at University of South Australia

    In the endless 'slavering' over the technical issues, prompted by this article, I think most of you 'techies' are entirely missing the point.
    Data storage is an immense (and largely overlooked) problem for humankind.
    I believe that the sum total of human knowledge is doubling approximately every 5 years and we have NO reliable ways of storing such material.
    When CD's were first developed we were told that they were the answer. that you could use them as 'coasters' and they would never lose their content. We now know how vulnerable to scratching they actually are. Furthermore it has become evident that the material on them simply 'decays' after time measured in years.
    The reality is that NOONE really knows whether any of the newer data storage systems will 'work' in a 100 year. Unless you want to argue that information/knowledge that is a 100 years old is of no value, then this is a real problem.

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  23. Ari Asulin

    logged in via Facebook

    The article didn't contain any proof of concept. The concept itself isn't new. Problem is no 3d data has managed to be industry stable. Until any semblance of evidence arises, this article goes in the 'we got duped yet again' category.
    Another black smudge for 'Science is Awesome'.

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    1. Matthew Thompson

      database admin

      In reply to Ari Asulin

      The concept above isn't about 3d writing and reading, it's about using opposing laser beams to refine the size of the dot to be much smaller. Basically the outer laser is offset and used to cut the first laser down to a super small dot. As the article points out, the issue with lasers is they are only so small they can get, and you can never make them smaller via manipulation of that one source. However... you can dissect that beam via another cause light waves can cancel each other out.

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  24. Leigh Berrell

    logged in via LinkedIn

    Seems like some great enterprise uses here for achiving - logs, file versions, etc. One cheap drive can hold a years worth of history - two cheap drives make it 100% failsafe. And as for read speed - Im assuming if they are packing that bits together 500X closer, then they are also likely to be able to read them off 500X faster (i.e. same disc rotation speed) so I wouldnt get caught up on read transfer speed as being an inhibitor.

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  25. Steven's Page

    logged in via Facebook

    I haven't got a clue about any of the technical stuff or the math but I want a 1PB disk just because it sounds cool.

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  26. Eric Harder

    logged in via Facebook

    for now just seal the disk in the drive. then add it to next years computers. 1 tb hard drive and 1000 tb internal bulk media storage. i'll be happy for awhile.

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  27. fuxy22

    logged in via Twitter

    Cool. When can we see this new technology in stores i have a few terabytes i need to write on disk :)

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  28. Jon Hart

    IT Director

    Any idea how this would effect the write speed?

    Optical may be more fragile than SSD or HDD but compared to tape!

    We have to backup more than 7TB each week, for storage off-site. Unfortunately, the money tree is a bit bare at the moment, so we are forced to rely on tapes.

    Knowing how flaky DVDs can be, we'd probably want to double up on the copies but even so, this would make a massive difference to us.

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  29. Matthew Thompson

    database admin

    this would be a heavenly send, there are just so many applications for this. Where I now have 8 tapes in a deck that are used for storage cause tape the only cost effective option. I could see have a similar appliance where a stack of 10 DVDs were setup in a single backup unit, and then made to all write at the same time. I would then have ability to pull 1 copy for the bank vault, 1 for on site holdings, 1 for laying on my desk as a coaster, and the other 5 as stationary in the machine being filled…

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  30. Mike Marynowski

    Software Engineer

    The problem with optical drive read speed is that you can only spin a disc so fast before it shatters. I remember Plextor released a CD drive that was something like 60x, which got discontinued after users complained that discs were literally shattering in their drives.

    Even if you don't use the extra capacity, you'll be happy to know that a disc's read speed is proportional to the data density of a single ring of data, which means these discs should read quite a bit faster (for the same amount…

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  31. Bill Bingham

    Ne'er-do-well

    I trust that your math and science are far more sophisticated and accurate than your English. Specifically, nobody circumnavigated Abbe's limit. As traditionally used, you didn't sail all the way around it. Using a more liberal definition, you did not travel around it, as in "circumnavigating an oil spill." That being said, you did find a way around an obstacle... a difficulty or problem. You circumvented it. Just saying.

    I know. Picking nits. Still, if one is going to be taken seriously, it cannot but help to express your achievement using correct terminology.

    BTW, ignore the naysayers. This is indeed an outstanding achievement.

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  32. ႺɅƵ ℍɅЏ

    logged in via Twitter

    Is the speed of reading/writing going to be any quicker?

    A quick off-the-top-of-my-heid calculation shows if 4.7gb takes, say, 20min to burn, and assuming you have the data, this disc would take over 8 years to burn fully.

    Of course multi-session disks would help, but imagine writing continually to this disc as a new session. The OS might have a hard time when you insert it and are 50+ sessions in and it needs mount points for them all.

    Not to mentin the disc is fragile, so you'll need multiple copies.

    Great achievement though.

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  33. César Bernardo

    logged in via Facebook

    It´s only one of the possible applications of a technology with almost 20 years...Stimulated emission depletion (STED) microscopy.

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  34. Russ Reese

    logged in via Twitter

    Brilliant! The real story here is that there is always a way to do what seems to be impossible.

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    1. Steven's Page

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Russ Reese

      Exactly. I don't understand any of it except the part where they were told it couldn't be done and they did it anyway. That in itself impresses and inspires me.

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  35. Jon Peterson

    logged in via Facebook

    This seems like it would have some serious speed issues, which actually indicates the target audience pretty clearly. Right now we (as an IT community) run backups on myriad media... whether it's tape or RAID arrays on a NAS device or cloud storage, they're all susceptible to magnetism and the general insanity of electronics.

    But put a series of discs in an enclosed (perhaps sealed, since data density of this magnitude doesn't really beg for easy expansion... and sealing would prevent dust scratches…

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  36. JD Eveland

    logged in via LinkedIn

    Actually, for permanent storage, I heartily recommend clay tablets inscribed with cuneiform wedges. We have successfully retrieved information from this storage medium that's been preserved for 4000 years or so, give or take. I know that there may be objections - bulkiness of the medium, getting your hands dirty, difficulty of learning cuneiform script, etc. - but for sheer longevity of storage without data deterioration, clay tablets are hard to beat! It might take a fair number of them to successfully encode a cute cat video, but nothing is impossible with enough clay, wedges, and patience.

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    1. Maurice Shannon

      logged in via LinkedIn

      In reply to JD Eveland

      Perhaps the most insightful input to this thread. "Cuneus" the wedge shaped reed they used to imprint these tablets...right? Now we imprint cuneiform with light? I have a patent in DVD technology I earned at Warner Bros. during the early days of that now antiquated technology. We knew then that it was an outdated means to stored data for any reasonable amount of time.

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  37. Shawn Hicks

    logged in via Facebook

    This reminds me of research into storage using holography and bacteriorhodopsin.

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  38. Moritz Friedrich

    logged in via Facebook

    To all of you complaining about the inability to read optical discs in a few hundred years: except the currently used file systems here which could easily replaced with a more universal, simpler and open one, ODs are just binary code readable with a laser. Which is pretty much the easiest digital data storage. And in, say, 500 years from now, when some archaeologists dig up an ancient DVD containing finding nemo (i'd love to see the look on their faces), the are probably even able to reverse engineer the needed drive to play it.
    And if those new 1PB-discs here come sealed like a floppy and maybe also in smaller variants, built-in in ipods or memory sticks they would still hold some 100TB, which is pretty freakin awesome!

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  39. Tomas Ekbom

    logged in via Facebook

    I agree with many comments made on optical storage devices. They are slow and you need an extra reader nowadays as most laptop computers are left without to save space and power and go all in for SSD.

    Then, as I understand it, only perhaps a third of the total storage capacity of a CD/DVD is information that can be stored. The other lines on the disc with bumps and pits are information on tracking speed, angles etc. So I wonder if the claim regarding 1000 Terabytes refers to total capacity or…

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  40. daniel leischner

    logged in via email @gmail.com

    the one thing no one seems to be saying, who would NEED to carry a petabyte around? i mean,i have a 1tb flash drive and honestly, even with the abhorrent rate at which I eat up space and download things, i couldn't see myself filling just a terabyte for at least 5 years, much less a thousand terabytes. i find the idea very fascinating, but it seems excessive. and then there is the "scratch it and you've possibly lost thousands of gigs of data" issue, but that is less pressing, we can make disks that hold up better than that if we put a bit of time into it

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  41. Cameron John Robertson

    Storage Company Owner at Supercheap Selfstorage Northern Beaches

    It is really amazing and mind-blowing if we were to compare our data storage systems just a decade ago with what we are gifted with today. An entire room collection of video games that I had back in my childhood years can easily be contained in a single terabyte of data in a SD card form. It is definitely humongous in digital size but physically it is almost invisible. I still remember the era whereby zip disks were more advanced than floppy disks but nowadays, those are just history and almost non-recognizable by today's younger generation. I look forward to what technology has got to offer me in the future to come.

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